Microsoft 365 Security for Banks: What You Need to Know to Stay Protected

bank employee using m365 services

Thinking about using Microsoft 365 to keep your data locked away from cybercriminals? With over one million Office 365 users in the US alone, it seems like a great option for any organization looking to secure their data. However, for banks and financial institutions in particular, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when it comes to M365.

What Are the Security Risks Facing Your Bank?

Banks and financial institutions face unique security risks due to the sensitive nature of the data they handle. These risks can be exacerbated by the use of cloud services, including M365 services.

Phishing Attacks

Cybercriminals often target employees with emails that appear to be from trusted sources, tricking them into revealing sensitive information such as login credentials. Given that financial institutions manage vast amounts of personal data, even a single successful phishing attempt can have far-reaching consequences, from unauthorized access to client accounts to large-scale data incidents.


Banks inherently have a wealth of financial assets and are prime targets for these attacks. Ransomware attacks can paralyze banking operations and lead to significant financial losses, not to mention damage to the institution’s reputation.

Insider Threats

While external threats often get the most attention, insider threats are equally dangerous for banks. Employees, contractors, or partners with access to critical systems can misuse their privileges, either intentionally or inadvertently leading to data incidents.

Compliance and Regulatory Violations

Mismanagement of secure data in the cloud or failure to implement adequate security measures can result in non-compliance, leading to hefty fines and legal repercussions. Using Microsoft 365 without proper configuration and controls can make it challenging to meet these regulatory standards.

Account Takeovers

Once inside, cybercriminals can initiate fraudulent transactions or change security settings to lock out legitimate users. Given the high-value targets within a bank’s system, these takeovers can result in substantial financial loss and operational disruption.

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

APTs are prolonged and targeted cyber intrusions where an attacker gains continuous access to a network. In the banking sector, APTs can be particularly devastating, allowing hackers to monitor confidential communications, siphon sensitive data over extended periods, and potentially disrupt critical services.

Supply Chain Risks

Banks often rely on third-party vendors and service providers integrated into their operations. Any compromise in the supply chain can introduce vulnerabilities into the bank’s systems. Ensuring that all third-party interactions within M365 are secure is critical to minimizing this risk.

M365 Services in the Banking Sector

Many banks use M365 services for its robust suite of productivity tools, including email (Outlook) and collaboration platforms (Teams). However, the security features of Microsoft 365 are often underutilized or not fully understood. Here’s a look at the key security features and capabilities of Microsoft 365.

Identity and Access Control

  1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds a layer of security by requiring two or more verification methods. This drastically reduces the risk of unauthorized access from compromised credentials. There were many articles stating that MFA is 99% effective. More conservative studies found that it stops between 30% and 50% of attacks, which still makes it an effective security tool! Cutting your risk in half with a quick application is a no-brainer, especially for financial institutions.
  2. Conditional Access Rules: These rules allow banks to control how users can access resources based on certain conditions, such as user location, device status, or application sensitivity. Conditional access helps ensure that only authenticated and authorized users can access sensitive information.

Threat Protection

  1. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): DMARC helps prevent email spoofing and phishing attacks by ensuring that only legitimate emails from your domain reach the recipient. It builds on SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) to add an extra layer of protection.
  2. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): DKIM provides email verification by attaching a digital signature to each outgoing email. This ensures that the email content is trustworthy and has not been altered during transit.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

DLP policies help banks identify, monitor, and protect sensitive information across Microsoft 365 services. DLP ensures that sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or personal identification information, is not shared inadvertently or maliciously.

Security Management

M365 services offer centralized security management tools that allow IT administrators to monitor and manage security across the entire organization. Features include threat analytics, security alerts, and compliance reporting.

Should You Implement These Security Measures? Benefits of M365 Services for Banks

Implementing security measures within Microsoft 365 has significant benefits for banks, providing an extensive lineup of features that safeguard sensitive financial data. Here’s why your bank should prioritize these M365 security enhancements.

Enhancing Data Security and Privacy

Microsoft 365 uses strong encryption protocols both at rest and in transit, ensuring that even if data is intercepted, it remains unreadable by unauthorized parties. This is crucial for protecting sensitive financial data against leaks and security incidents.

Strengthening Compliance and Regulatory Adherence

  1. Advanced Compliance Solutions: Microsoft 365 provides tools like Compliance Manager, which helps banks assess their compliance posture and manage risks. 
  2. Audit Logs and Reports: Detailed logging and reports help banks track user activity and identify suspicious behavior. These logs are essential during audits and investigations, demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements.

Enhancing Resilience and Business Continuity

  1. Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions: M365 services offer backup services and disaster recovery options to ensure data availability and integrity in the event of a cyberattack or system outage. This minimizes downtime and ensures continuity of banking operations. However, backups stored in M365 only last for 14 days so we suggest a more thorough backup service that gives you extended access to your data. RESULTS offers an easy-to-use backup, archiving and recovery solution.
  2. Microsoft Threat Protection: Threat Protection encompasses a suite of tools like Microsoft Defender for Office 365, which provides real-time protection against threats such as phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware. This proactive approach to threat management ensures quicker recovery and mitigation.

Facilitating Stronger Collaboration

  1. Secure Email and Communication: Tools like Microsoft Teams and Outlook are equipped with end-to-end encryption, ensuring that communications remain secure and confidential. This facilitates secure collaboration among employees, partners, and clients.
  2. Shared Access Policies: With granular control over document access and sharing settings, banks can ensure that only authorized personnel can access or share sensitive information. This enhances internal and external collaboration without compromising security.

By leveraging these comprehensive security features, banks can significantly reduce their risk of experiencing data incidents and other cyber threats, ensure compliance with relevant regulations, and maintain a secure and trusted environment for their customers and operations.

Best Practices for Implementing M365 Services in Banks

Customize Security Policies and Configurations

Every bank has unique security needs. Customize M365 security policies to fit your specific requirements. Use the security and compliance center to configure policies that align with your organization’s risk tolerance and regulatory obligations.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA is a simple yet highly effective way to enhance security. Ensure that MFA is enabled for all users, especially those with access to sensitive information or administrative privileges. For complete MFA protection, we encourage our banking clients to use enterprise-class MFA solutions that enable secure connections to company networks and applications.

Educate Employees on Security Awareness and Best Practices

Human error is a significant factor in many security breaches. Regularly educate employees on security best practices, such as recognizing phishing attempts, using strong passwords, and understanding the importance of MFA.

Regular Audits and Monitoring

Regularly audit your security policies and configurations to ensure they are up-to-date and effective. Use Microsoft 365’s monitoring and reporting tools to stay informed about potential security threats and compliance issues.

Use Conditional Access

Leverage conditional access policies to ensure that only users who meet specific criteria can access sensitive data. For example, you can restrict access based on user location, device compliance, or risk level.

Worried About Making the Most of M365 Services? RESULTS Technology Can Help

At RESULTS Technology, we understand the unique security challenges facing banks and have extensive experience implementing, managing, and optimizing Microsoft 365 for financial institutions. Contact us to learn how we can help your bank strengthen its security posture with M365 services.